Kids Allowance: Teaching Money Management, Chores, and Responsibility

For a long time, I’ve been conflicted about the whole “kids allowance” thing. Should kids get money just because? Aren’t chores just part of being in a family and having responsibilities? My kids have always had chores and responsibilities, but I’ve used them as a way to earn privileges. That system has worked for a long time, and we can still use it, but after some discussion, my husband and I decided it was time to start giving our kids an allowance. Simply because we want them to learn how to manage money and take ownership of their “stuff”. Here’s how we’re doing it.

I’ve got 8 kids. My oldest is 22 and my youngest is 3. Needless to say, we’ve been doing the parenting thing for quite a while and I’ll be raising kids for quite a while still. 🙂 When our oldest left home, we wondered if we had taught him everything he needed to know. Regret is a funny thing… it makes you take a long hard look at how you’re doing things.

Does an Allowance Create Entitlement?

My husband and I have been talking about what we can do to better prepare our children for adulthood. We want them to earn money and save for college, learn how to take better care of their things, clean up after themselves, and not feel entitled to get whatever they want just because. And because we’ve never really given our kids an allowance, we feel like it’s time to change that.

After a long discussion, we came up with a new plan that would teach our kids how to budget, be responsible around the house (which they already have been), and make more decisions about their money. So we created this system that intertwines all of these elements. We had a family meeting and shared our idea with the kids. There were mixed reactions as we explained the idea we wanted to test out. But we talked through it, made some modifications and came up with the following plan that we started to implement in March of 2018. See the bottom of this post for periodic updates on how it’s working for us.

Monthly Allowance

On the first day of every month, our kids are paid a monthly allowance (we call it their monthly salary). With this money they will pay for some of their food, their sports, their clothing, gifts for friends, sports camps, scout camps, fuel, and any other activities that they do on their own. As parents, we provide shelter, transportation, and some food.

The food we provide: 

  • breakfast: eggs or oatmeal
  • lunch: stuff for sandwiches, fruit and veggies (here are some cold lunch ideas)
  • dinner: a well balanced meal
  • snacks: fruits/veggies

The food they can purchase with their allowance:

  • cereal
  • snacks (chips, granola bars, fruit snacks…)
  • treats (ice cream…)
  • school lunches

We decided to pay each of our kids $.25 per day multiplied by their age. That means our 16 year old get’s $124 per month and our three year old gets $23.25 per month. Granted, a three year old isn’t going to get much out of this entire experiment. BUT she is the caboose in our family, and does not like to feel left out. So she got her own little envelope of cash too. She was thrilled.

How My Kids Earn Money (aka Chores):

Each child has three things they need to do every day. They are paid monthly based on the percentage of responsibilities they complete. Each day my child needs to:

  • complete their kitchen job
  • have a clean room (which includes a bed that is made)
  • “leave no trace” (which means they need to clean up after themselves)

At the end of the month we count the number of completed squares and divide it by the number of available squares to get the percentage of completed work. Say they only did 75% of their chores, then they would only get 75% of their “salary”.

Kitchen Job:

My 12 year old son cleans the kitchen in the morning before school. He unloads the dishwasher, loads the breakfast dishes, and wipes the counters.

In the afternoon, before dinner, my 8 and 9 year old daughter and son clear and wipe the counters and load the dishwasher, sweep the floor, and dump the kitchen trash if needed.

In the evening, my 14 year old son and 16 year old daughter alternate nights to clean the kitchen after dinner. This entails clearing and wiping counters, loading and starting the dishwasher, washing, drying and putting away pans. Putting away leftover food. Sweeping if needed, and cleaning out the sink.

Clean Bedroom:

A clean bedroom is defined as floors picked up, beds made, and laundry put away. Laundry falls into the clean room category because if their hamper is overflowing to their floor, their room is no longer clean. All my kids do their own laundry. I help my girls that are 3 and 8… but they still have to bring their hamper down and we load it into the washing machine and either I switch the laundry or they do it. When the laundry is done I help them fold and put it away. Everyone else is responsible to handle their own laundry. It needs to be done in the same day and put away in order for them to get their clean bedroom point that day.

“Leave No Trace”:

For many years, my kids would each have a separate section of the house that they were in charge of keeping clean for the week. Each Monday we would rotate sections of the house. While that helped keep the house clean for the most part, and our kids were learning how to clean up a room, our kids were NOT learning how to clean up after themselves. They just knew how to clean up after others.

Last summer we implemented the “leave no trace” requirement in our home. Just like the scouting program has a “leave no trace” merit badge, we have that requirement in our home. Throughout the day, during different transition points in the day, the kids are reminded to “leave no trace”…. before heading to school, before free time, and before dinner and/or bedtime. In the beginning, we got a lot of “I didn’t leave that out” or “I didn’t make that mess”.  Overtime, this became less and less of an issue. When it does come up, I let the kids know that sometimes we all have to clean up “nobody’s mess” and we just work together to clean up the mess that nobody made.

Lest ye think I have perfect kids… I share this picture with you. This is after just one weekend of snow. The snow bucket came into the house and the hat and glove bucket got dumped everywhere too. This is an example of my kids NOT cleaning up after themselves. It happens plenty. I had to leave for a quick errand and came home to a clean mudroom. No one was asked to clean it, but my 12 year old (who enjoys order) decided to tackle it. While my kids have done better about cleaning up after themselves, they certainly aren’t perfect. They need a lot of reminders, but overall I things are improving and I know that they are capable of cleaning a room if they were asked to. 😀

Daily Tracking Sheet

I printed the “Habit Tracker” sheet from my Life Planner download (page 73 of the free download). It’s just one piece of paper and can easily hang in the pantry, on the fridge, or sit on the counter. It’s easier to have it all on just one paper. And it has 18 lines and 31 columns.

At the end of the day, some of the kids go through the checklist and mark off the boxes for each responsibility they completed that day. It’s only three boxes per day. Kitchen, bedroom, and leave no trace. Only having three check boxes each day makes it a lot less tedious to keep track of responsibilities. It also takes a bigger hit on their daily percentage. If they miss one of their chores, they only earned 66% of their pay that day. So let’s say my 16 year old only does 75% of her jobs, that means she will only get paid $93. She also has a part time job, but she has to pay for gas along with all her other expenses. So getting $30 less hurts.

It’s not hard for me to identify when this did NOT happen. I always know who didn’t do their kitchen job. And when I tuck them in at night I can see the condition of their bedrooms. I also see during the day whether or not they made their beds.

Pay Day and Shopping Day

We decided that the first day of every month would be pay day. The kids get the envelope of cash, pay their tithing, make their payments to mom and dad*, and then determine what they are going to do with the rest of the money. Then, together as a family, we head over to the store and the kids purchase what they want for breakfast, snacks, treats, toiletries, and clothing if needed.

Our first shopping trip was so fun. The older kids were more conscious of their spending and looking at the price per ounce. They thought twice about purchases and even put things back. While my 8 year old daughter purchased sugar cereal for herself, my 14 year old boy decided to purchase himself a non-sugar cereal because he knew he’d be hungry after an hour of eating sugar cereal. My 14 and 12 year old purchased larger boxes of some food and split it, because they were watching the price per ounce number. Everyone brought their own ice cream. And now, instead of having huge bowls of ice cream, they are more conscious of what they have and making it last longer.

After our shopping trip the kids came home and wrote their names on their groceries and found sections of the pantry to claim as theirs. So far we haven’t had any issues with people eating other peoples food without permission. And I’m not worried about that becoming an issue either.

*Because we just started this, the kids haven’t had time to budget and save for scout camp/sports that we have to pay for now. So us parents made the paid for the activities and the kids are now making monthly payments to us. They just have to have them paid off before the activity starts. In the future, if they need to borrow money, they will have to repay it with interest. I’d like them to learn the concept of interest at home, instead of when they are adults and the interest rates and penalties are much more substantial. 

Budgeting for Kids Allowance

Between our 6 kids at home, we are spending nearly $500/mo on allowance. But I didn’t need to create extra income to come up with this $480. We just shifted the money from one budget category to another. My food bill is less now, because I’m no longer purchasing toiletries, cereal, snacks, ice cream…  Our family spending budget moved over to the allowance budget.

The kids are making payments or saving up to pay the sports they want to do. One child who wanted to do two sports at a time decided to just do one since he didn’t want to pay for two (and let’s be honest folks… I was grateful!). Does that make sense? We simply shifted money around and decreased amounts in the grocery, clothing, gifts, and kids budget categories.

The Verdict

We’ve been at it for about two weeks now and so far it’s going good! For the first time in forever my 16 year old daughter made her bed! My 14 year old son has kept his room clean for nearly two weeks straight now! THIS is a miracle my friends!

The first pay day, we paid them 100% of their salary so they could see how far their money would go. As they start running out of food, they’ll know how to spend their food money next month. Today NO ONE ate cold cereal and opted for fried eggs instead. My 8 year old daughter is no longer having hot lunch every day. And my 9 year old son decided to only have hot lunch 1 time a week instead of the 3 times per week he was doing it before.

So it’s been neat to see them monitor themselves, be more aware of what they consume, and even handle money! Everyone likes this system… even my 12 year old who initially thought it was stupid and wouldn’t work. 🙂 He’s actually the very best at tracking and completing his responsibilities!

What do you think?

How would you do this differently? Any ideas of how I could make this work better? How do you teach your kids about money and responsibility?

Updates on How It’s Going for Us:

First month (March): the first few weeks were great. My 16 year old religiously made her bed every day and her room was notably tidier. Other kids did great for the first 2ish weeks. Then people started to forgot to track and they needed more reminders. Overall though, there was an improvement in keeping their responsibilities. If the dinner crew neglected their jobs, my morning crew would do them, but also get the extra points for doing double duty. At the end of the month my 12 year old scored a 105% on his tracking and made the most money out of everyone! Kids ages 14 and 16 got about 75% and the 8 year old struggled the most and only got 50%.

2nd Month (April): this was a great month because they felt the pain of getting less money as a result of their inconsistent efforts. My 8 year old was a little demotivated though, and we’re thinking we should change this slightly for her… maybe paying her weekly or every two weeks would be better? At the end of May, 10 -16 year olds got 86%ish of their monthly allowance. Improvement for the 14 and 16 year old and the 12 year old got less mostly because the night crew was actually doing their nightly responsibilities better. The 8 year old still struggled, but did better than the month before. We still haven’t moved to paying her more frequently though. She is doing better at getting her afternoon responsibilities done and keeping her room clean. Still not 100%, but improvement.

Comments

  • Marcie Dixon

    Thank you for writing on this topic. My 2 kids, 15 and 13yr olds, swap weekly cleaning zones. Not every job is done every day; some are done daily (put away misplaced items) and some 1x (mop floor) to 3x (sweep the floor) per week. The zones are as follows: Livingroom and Entryway zone, Bathroom zone, Hallway and laundry room zone, and Kitchen/dining room zone. They earn $1 per day if every task is complete and checked by a parent (and initialed). Sometimes they forget to get things checked and don’t get that task counted as done. We think this is the accountability piece of chores like when you do a task for the boss and then report what you did.
    After the newness wore off I noticed that no chores would get done over the weekend and so I instituted a complete week of chores equals getting paid rule. My eldest is very money motivated while my youngest couldn’t care less about money. This kind of backfired on us because my youngest wound up only having $30 to spend on Christmas gifts for her family (5 people); she got really creative.
    Starting this year, we decided that any incomplete week (not all days of chores were done) equals all the earned $ going to the Christmas gift fund and none to personal choice spending. So far, my youngest has not earned any personal choice money; all her earned money is going to the Christmas fund. So, she is choosing not to do her weekend chores (the easiest days of the week). Even with reminders she still doesn’t do it. We just don’t know what to do.

    • It’s hard when kids aren’t motivated. What I’ve found in general is I have to figure out what each childs hot button is. For some, it’s playing on the xbox. For another, it’s time with friends. Figure out what motivates and then find a way to tie it to the responsibilities around the house.

      That’s why this system has worked well for us. For any sort of “fluff”, they’ve got to pay for it. That includes makeup, deodorant, shampoo…. maybe increase what you’re willing to pay and make them buy more? They get a bonus if they have a 100% week?

      Good luck! I’d love to hear what ends up working for you! 🙂 Although it always seems like we have to mix things up.

  • Amy

    What do you do for sports supplies? (Cleats, socks, etc). And if they play club ball do they pay for that out of their allowance? Just loving your ideas and trying to make it work for our big family!

    • Hmm, good question. So far we’re just a few weeks into it and haven’t had this come up. Although, my 9 year old needs new church shoes and he’s going to be paying for them. As far as club goes (I know how expensive that can be!), I’d probably ask them to save and pay for half. With some planning, it can be done! I think you can modify things and make it work for your fam. Let me know what you end up doing!

  • Jennifer Huffaker

    This sounds so awesome! Good job Mom! Megan is not excited to do this at all…I’ll have to have her read this article. Jacob doesn’t like it either. Maybe I’ll send them to your house to talk to your kids about it. 🙂

  • Marcie D

    I really like this idea of paying for more than fun things. That way they understand what is a necessity and what is extra. I’m going to stew on it and try to figure out a way to make your system work with what I already have in place now. What I do know is that it has to be easy for me to document!

  • Amy

    Is it still going smoothly? We are going to start hopefully the beginning of next month. Any things you would tweak, or share? I have several who are “quitters”, so I am afraid it may not be motovating enough for them, but maybe after seeinh everyone else earn and buy…

    • Amy

      Motivating and seeing. I turned off my aurocorrect and forgot… 😉

      • Hi Amy! 🙂

        It’s been interesting! After a couple weeks, a few of them were not tracking on their sheet and/or doing their jobs. We had a reminder discussion and told them they couldn’t go track the entire week at the end of the week or month, that they needed to do it daily.
        At the end of the month, we tallied up points and my 12 year old son had 103% of his jobs done. He’s in charge of the morning kitchen, and there were a few times the evening crew didn’t do it, so he’d get extra points for doing both the breakfast and the prior nights dinner dishes. He got paid more money than the 16 year old! That certainly woke the 14 and 16 year old up.
        My 8 year old only did 48% of her jobs. So it was a pretty sorrry paycheck for her. She had to pay us back $15 for her sports (the kids are on a 3 month payment plan to pay for their spring sports). And after paying that and tithing, she only had about $10 left. She decided not to pay for any hot lunch in April. And guess what. She’s been a LOT better about doing her jobs.
        My 14 year old ended up borrowing money from his cousin during the last week of March (our spring break) for a couple movies (one was an $18 ticket for the 3D IMAX of Ready Player One). So after paying his debt to his cousin, tithing, and his sport payment and summer camp payment, he had a whoppin $2.
        So they learned some hard lessons. But they’ve been really great lessons. Luckily, we live about a half mile from Grandpa, who has lots of outside work opportunities and the kids are able to go work for him and earn some cash.
        As for me, I went to the grocery store less AND spent less. Gone were the battles of “he got more ice cream than me” or “who ate all the cereal!” or “can I have this, that, or the other?”. It does take some effort to remind them to fill out the tracking sheet, but overall I’m really pleased with this system and the lessons they’ve been learning!
        I’ve been out of town for a few days, so I’m curious to see how clean the house is, and how they did with out me there. 🙂

        • Amy

          I think i am more worried a out me! In order to be sure the leave no trace is effective the house needs to be clean when we start. And- when i am out shopping it will be hard to not grab things i know they will loke, but it will be good for me as well. I think i may be photo texting, but allowing them to decide and pay for them instead of me. I cannot even imagine how much this will save every month.

  • Audrey

    We have been struggling with this aspect of parenting and we have just one child. I think this will work for us with a few modifications – we have pets and all that that entails. I am thrilled to pitch this plan. I will keep you posted. Thank you very much for sharing this plan. Imagining life with 8 kids!

    • Hi Audrey! Please do let me know how it goes! I’ve loved what my kids have learned from it so far… budgeting and thinking twice about purchases AND how much food they eat! 🙂

      8 kids is actually easier than when I just had a few… #1, they are older. #2 they entertain and help take care of each other! 🙂

      You can do it!

      • Audrey

        Hi Cathy – I need a Rent-a- Brother!! Having friends at our house is a lovely vacation for me.
        I am ready to embark on the Salary Plan but I have not yet received the download from you. Did I do something incorrectly? :o) HELP, please.

  • Marcie D

    We’ve been doing this plan since the second week in April. Documenting is a breeze. Halfway through it, I had to amend the LNT box to include; helping without complaining and using a kind voice and words. You see, Brother and Little Sister were at it verbally big time and it hurt my heart. It was mostly using a hurtful tone of voice, facial expressions, or being quick to criticize.

    I’ve shared this system with my friend. She’s putting her own spin on it. Her eldest isn’t doing her chores and wonders why she has no money. Her youngest is finally motivated to clean her room, a HUGE change.

    Thank you for sharing this system.

  • Heather

    Hi, Cathy. The kids and I are on board with a couple of tweaks. I’ve added some “extra” jobs that can be done to help with my chore list, but those can only be counted if the child has his daily three finished for the day. My idea was to allow “make-up” opportunities of missed jobs, or days they aren’t home. My question to you with slightly older children, is how do you handle days when they are away? I will gladly take on the kitchen duties, but wonder if you have any tips for the days the kids may be at camp or a friend’s house.
    Thanks for the article; I thoroughly enjoyed it!

    • Hi Heather! So what we’ve done is have them switch with a sibling. OR another option would be to just not count that day so it doesn’t affect their total % of jobs done. Let me know how it goes! I like the idea of having an additional chore list for “make-up” opportunities. I was thinking of doing something similar, but calling it “extra credit”!

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